Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Focus on Enrichment: What I Learned at the Educational Interventions Forum

The forum was a great success. We ended up having some wonderful conversations with the participants about the kinds of things that are needed for effective intervention efforts.

I wanted to write about one point that was particularly salient for me. During one of the question and answer sessions following one of the papers I presented, a participant asked what the ATI Instructional Dialogs could do for enrichment. I confessed that I tend to focus on identifying students who are in need of extra help and that I tend to forget the enrichment end of the spectrum, even though I know better. After all, Jack (Bergan) is fond of saying that if education in the United States is to improve, we can’t just focus on bringing lower performing students up to acceptable levels of performance. Rather, intervention has to be the “tide that raises all boats,” meaning that we must improve education for the high-performing students as well. State standards should be viewed as minimum requirements. Students should be given the opportunity to exceed these levels to the greatest extent possible.

In response to the participant’s question, I pointed out that the Instructional Dialogs are designed so that they can be used as independent assignments, and that students who have demonstrated proficiency in the regular curriculum can be assigned further dialogs in other topics as well. Jonathan Frank from WestEd expressed gentle disagreement with my response during his presentation. His point was that it’s not good enough to just give students who have mastered the required material “something else to do.” They must be given greater challenges. I whole-heartedly agree. That is why we include recommendations for enrichment on the Intervention Planning Report. These recommendations indicate what the student should learn next to promote learning beyond meeting the standard.

During our breakout session, participants from Pueblo City Schools discussed the success that they’ve been having with enrichment. I think enrichment is a great topic for further discussion on this blog. What kinds of enrichment programs have been successful? What are the challenges associated with enrichment? What additional data or technology would assist in providing effective enrichment programs?

We look forward to everyone’s ideas about how to improve education for higher-performing students.

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